Avoiding Unwanted Attention at Work

Some of us have had that uncomfortable moment with a co-worker—an unwelcome advance, an inappropriate joke, or a colleague who just doesn’t seem to accept your consistent “no’s” to lunch or after work invitations.

Here are five tips to fend off unwelcome behaviour from colleagues in the office and how to keep things professional:

1.  Set Ground Rules

Before stepping outside of the office with a colleague, set ground rules. For example, it’s alright to grab dinner, as long as it’s in a group or you split the bill. There’s a fine line between having fun with co-workers and having too many cocktails.

2.  Put A Stop To It

If you notice that guy from Marketing has been coming around a lot lately, stop it before it starts. Not sure if he’s just being friendly or flirting? Find a way to bring up your partner or just be honest and tell them you would prefer to get on with your work.

3.  Be Clear

If Mr. Marketing still isn’t getting the hint, tell him straight-up that you’re not interested. You do have to see this person every day, so be professional, clear and assertive. If a dinner invitation comes your way, say, “I’m flattered but as a personal rule I don’t date co-workers.”

4.  Document Incidents

Take the time to write down dates, times and exact comments when something doesn’t feel right. This could be as simple as someone leaning over a bit too closely during a meeting to grab the water pitcher. Or someone brushing past you when there is plenty of space around.

5.  Speak out

If the inappropriate behaviour continues, you need to let the right people know. If the unwanted attention has per­­sisted thus far, then you are being har­­assed. Check your employee handbook for the correct protocol to report sexual harassment. If it’s unclear, tell your boss or ­line manager about the situation. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your boss or manager (or if it’s your boss or superior who’s harassing you), go directly to your company’s HR department.


The most important thing to remember is not to let someone’s unwanted attention intimidate you and affect your job or your career. If you’re uncomfortable, speak out to someone and don’t just suffer in silence.